My Mum’s ancient AGA cookery book – I used to spend hours looking through this when I was a little girl.
Even then I thought the little line drawings at chapter headings, and the tailpieces finishing each section, were elegant and clever. As an adult I still do.
But the best illustration was at the front, in colour, called “The Christmas Turkey”, by A.R.Thompson R.A.
Everyone looks ecstatic to see Mother appear from the kitchen carrying the bird, the AGA visible behind her. They are a big family, from Great grandma to the baby. This was the 50s, and Christmas seems a lot less florid than it is now. The decorations are paper chains, there are pieces of real holly on the table, and the Christmas tree has actual wax candles in their little tin holders, like we had. (That was a terrible fire risk, especially when the tree had dried out a bit.)
It’s hard to explain why this picture had such an uplifting effect on me as a child. I suppose it embodies the whole happy families idyll, which I’m now a lot more cynical about. Also there’s something about the mother emerging serene and well-groomed from the kitchen….my mother, wonderful though she was, didn’t really look like that when she finally sat down after wrangling the Christmas dinner onto the table.
Nowadays I feel sorry for the turkey. That aspect hadn’t occurred to me as a child. We sort of knew the turkey, because Mum got it from Mr Maries down the road who had reared, killed and dressed it, but poultry in those days was a luxury item. People had a chicken for a treat, because it was relatively dear – factory farming did not exist. If you were given poultry to eat you were jolly grateful, pulling the wishbone was a ritual, and the cat was lucky if it got a bit of the Parson’s Nose.
Does anyone else have an object, not necessarily a book or illustration, which somehow symbolises childhood memories of Christmas?